#hearLDSwomen: My Gospel Doctrine Teacher Asks Questions Specifically to “Priesthood Holders” and Ignores Women

LDS woman teaching a classI’ve taught Gospel Doctrine in three different wards for a combined 10 years, and I could never get a woman to sub for me. I asked plenty. They always said “Oh, I could never do that. Ask Bro. So and So.” So frustrating. Also, since my last stint ended, I’ve never been asked to sub. Had a female teacher for a year after me, and now a male teacher again. Always male subs. Always.
– Julie Rowse

 

When I was in my early 30s I was called to be a gospel doctrine teacher in a family ward, along with an older gentleman. We were replacing two older men who had served for about 2 years. People asked if I felt overwhelmed or nervous, and women told me they would be terrified to have that calling. I don’t think they asked my co-teacher the same questions. I usually answered that I was excited because I like teaching, as well as studying to prepare the lessons. I taught the first year and had great experiences and got so much good feedback from class members, who complimented my preparation and the perspectives I brought to the lessons. Sadly, the other teacher’s wife passed away around the year mark. I don’t know if he asked to be released or if the ward leadership wanted to take something off his plate. But they released BOTH of us at the same time and called two new teachers. Maybe they thought it would call attention to him if he were the only one released? I didn’t want to be released and didn’t see why I should be, but I wasn’t asked how I felt about it. Our replacements were two more older men. One of them basically stood at the front of the class and read from the manual. I was really hurt. It was another 2 years before a sister was called again to teach Gospel Doctrine.
– Anonymous

 

One of our gospel doctrine teachers gets very nervous if anything is brought up outside of what is included in our super old Sunday school manuals, (e.g., Heavenly Mother, church history, gender roles, sexuality, fallibility of prophets, etc.). Many times, if someone brings up one of these topics she’ll defer answering to a priesthood leader. When we were learning about creation someone asked a question about Heavenly Mother which is something I’ve studied at length and have a huge testimony of. After she said she didn’t feel comfortable answering it, I raised my hand to give some insight. She pretended not to see me and said “Let’s let a priesthood leader handle this one”. So I said I’m not a priesthood leader but I have a few thoughts based on my own study and gave my answer without being called on. To his credit the stake president who was attending backed me up. But it really bothers me that no matter how well a woman studies, understands and articulates her thoughts she will always be seen as less credible than a man with priesthood whether he knows anything about the subject or not.
– Julia

 

As a newlywed, I was in a ward that was very resistant to any progressive ideas. My husband would say much more inflammatory statements in lessons than I ever did. But while I was either shunted off to Primary or left without a calling for months (all while many ward members held 2 or 3 callings, so there was need), he got called to the Sunday School presidency.
– Mary

 

My favorite Sunday school teacher (a woman) read a scripture from a more modern translation to help the class understand it better and was called in to the bishop’s office. A male member of the ward who was a CES instructor regularly quotes from the same translation.
– Anonymous

 

Pro Tip: Where possible, make sure that women are cycling through positions as Sunday School teachers. If you have a hard time finding a woman who will accept this calling, do some listening and reflecting on what it is about the culture of your ward that makes women feel they aren’t qualified to speak.


Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)

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6 Responses

  1. EmilyB says:

    I have seen this happen in my ward. A female teacher gets a touch question from the crowd and, flustered, she asks the class, “Would any of the brethren like to help me answer this one?” What about the amazing RM sisters in our ward with degrees in ancient scripture?

    I think it stems from the organization of the church in general: priesthood leadership being all male implies that female general leaders are just window dressing and their counsel isn’t actually inspired or worth following. This message trickles down to the local level: female teachers, leaders, members don’t have any input that is ignored any worth. Only priesthood brethren do. This is a fallacy because not all brethren spend as much time reading scripture, attending the temple, or serving others as sisters do.

    On my mission, the sister missionaries baptized more than the boys did. Way more. In my ward, women teach more hours of lessons than the men by a 5:1 ratio and are expert instructors. They give more talks at church (but never speak last). They outnumber the men in church attendance by at least 2:1. Our unpaid stake seminary teachers are all female but for one retired gentleman. If you did a head count of who is serving in which callings in our ward, women outnumber men more than 2:1. But women have no say, no authority; women cannot supervise the very few men who barely know and barely teach and barely serve in our ward. With these numbers, it is ridiculous that this minority rules over us, but they do. Or at least they did; I stopped attending and took my children with me because I want something better for my daughters.

    • Anon says:

      Bravo for you and your daughters. They are lucky to have you.

    • Dani Addante says:

      That is frustrating! I hope the women raise their hand anyway or speak up in class without raising their hands.

      I noticed that with my parents, my mom would usually think my dad’s opinion was right and hers was wrong. I think part of this comes from the wording in the temple before 2019. Once, my mom seemed bothered and she told me that the temple says women should listen to their husbands and she was struggling with something my dad had said and trying to accept it. I wonder if the pre-2019 temple wording is the reason why some people think men’s opinions are better.

    • Ziff says:

      Spot on, EmilyB. This is an extremely depressing pattern. This is just echoing what you said, but it reminds me of one of the points in Ezra Taft Benson’s well-known “14 Fundamentals” talk. He said (roughly) that the prophet doesn’t need any particular schooling or knowledge to speak authoritatively on things. I wonder if people appealing to “one of the brethren” are looking for not so much knowledge as an authoritative stamp. It doesn’t matter if what a man says is true or false, because his authority will *make* it true.

  2. Dani Addante says:

    This makes me so sad! I too don’t like it when they assume that male church leaders are more spiritually knowledgeable than other members. Being a leader and having the priesthood doesn’t automatically make you more knowledgeable than others. I’ve seen this many times, when a teacher at church will ask the bishop or stake president to answer a question.

    Once I was at a stake RS society meeting. The stake RS president was teaching and the members could ask questions. The stake president was at our meeting too, to show support. At one point, someone asked a question and the stake RS pres didn’t know the answer so she asked the stake president to answer it. He seemed nervous to be called on and responded to the question, but anyone else could have responded to it. Not just male church leaders.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ve had plenty of female GD teachers in my life, and so far as I can recall they were pretty uniformly terrific. I have never witnessed this “defer to the priesthood” behavior. Lots of times when they didn’t know something they’d throw it back to the class generally, but never specifically to men or even priesthood leaders. As a man I would be pretty aggravated by such a practice as well.

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